Dir: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr., Linda Cardellini, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rowan Atkinson, voices of Neil Fanning and Scott Innes
Well, they did it. They really, honestly did it -
they made a live-action Scooby-Doo movie. And is it really as
god-awful as everyone thought it would be?
The answer is: no, sir, it most definitely is not.
It's classic Scooby, but with a twist. After their differences get too much to handle, Mystery Inc splits up, and Shaggy (Lillard), Scooby (Fanning), Fred (Prinze), Velma (Cardellini) and Daphne (Gellar) all go their separate ways. But time passes, and they find themselves all invited to Spooky Island, a theme park run by the mysterious Emile Mondavarious (Atkinson), who wants them to solve a mystery for him. And what they find is like nothing they've encountered before - from real, live demons to voodoo magic and a mastermind from the past!
First, let's take a look at the cast who take on the somewhat daunting task of bringing the classic characters to life for the first time.
Matthew Lillard as Shaggy is... perfect. He was simply born to play this role, and nails it absolutely perfectly, especially the voice! Close your eyes, and you'd swear it's Casey Kasem. He LOOKS like Shaggy, moves like him... he IS Shaggy.
Freddie Prinze Jr. as Fred, on the other hand, is not quite the Fred we know from the old cartoon series - in fact, he comes off as more of a caricature of him, moreso than is the case with any of the other characters. He's infinitely more amusing (to me, at least), than Daphne, the other character who'd had her personality dicked with for the purposes of the movie... but we'll get to that in a few seconds.
Velma is perhaps the character that most resembles her cartoon incarnation. Nothing is sacrificed to bring Velma to the big screen, and I'm also very glad that they didn't go with star power in casting Linda Cardellini (of TV's little-known "Freaks and Geeks") in the role unlike they did with Daphne.
And now... Daphne. Oh, BOY, do I have issues with Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne. Gellar is cast to simply endow the film with some real star power - plus a heaping helping of gratuitous T & A. Because it's Gellar, Daphne's character is given a flimsy excuse to transform into a butt-kicking power-babe, and before that transformation she's turned into even more of a prima donna than she was in the cartoon, as Gellar wades through their script with her typical "trying to sound like a real actor" style of acting.. And as for resemblance to the cartoon? Well, she only wears her "cartoon" outfit in the opening "prologue" of the film, and even then, it's been altered to bear more cleavage and leg. She then spends the rest of the film swanning around in a series of small, tight outfits, that only resemble her "true" costume in that they're purple... but they're not even the right damn SHADE of purple.
And finally, the CGI Scooby. It would have make or broke the film, depending on it's quality - and thankfully, it's great. It's somewhere in between the Scooby from the cartoon, and a real dog, and does everything that they're both capable of. There are definitely some instances were it looks more real than others, but, hey, it happens. I was also quite glad to discover that Scott Innes did NOT provide Scooby's voice, as had been originally thought. As some may know, Innes is the voice actor who has been playing the role of Scooby in the various direct-to-video features that have been released lately, replacing the late Don Messick, the original actor behind Scooby. And in my humble opinion, Innes really, REALLY sucks at doing the voice. I hear nothing but a schoolyard impression from him. Neil Fanning, however, the actor who actually does portray Scooby in this movie, does a much better job - it's still not quite Messick, but I don't think anyone's capable of doing a perfect impression.
The story of the movie itself is largely classic Scooby, setting up a bunch of likely suspects and a few curious clues, allowing the audience's minds to get to work on the mystery. It's slightly reminiscent of the animated feature, "Zombie Island," in that the monsters here aren't guys in masks - they're real, and they have a particularly creepy design that's fairly far removed from typical Scooby monsters, while their CGI has a curious, yet very fitting, feel of stop-motion to it in places.
Apparently, in the original version of the film, there were to be a lot more spoofs of typical Scooby material (a la "The Brady Bunch Movie"), but in the end, they seemed to chicken out and edit a lot of it out. Honestly, though, the movie is probably better off in this start, as it toes the line between true adaptation and piss-take perfectly - any more, and it would have been overkill. What's left are a few references to Shaggy's munches, and stabs at the old clichés - "Now that we're back together, let's split up and look for clues!" There's next to nothing left about Velma's sexual orientation left - just a few things which are harmless on their own, but which take on greater meaning when you know what was originally being hinted at ("voyage of self-discovery," friendly punch on arm for the guy who was evidently interested in her).
A highlight is definitely the short flashback, which tells the fate of He Who Is The Worst Cartoon Character Ever - ever wonder where Scrappy-Doo went? Well, now you can find out. ;) Just about anyone who's ever seen the cartoon is sure to enjoy this little nugget - and as a side note, Scott Innes provides Scrappy's voice, and does a lot better than he ever did as Scooby. Nowhere else will you hear that little guy use the word "scrote."
Despite my extreme disappointment that the movie didn't end with the staple cry of "Scooby-Dooby-DOOOO!" (I can't believe that they didn't do that! It's how EVERY episode ended!), and my already-stated issues about Daphne, this flick still freaking owns you. I'll freely admit that I was among the many people who thought that this movie would be terrible - in fact, I think just about everybody thought it would be. But it's not. It's just great. Everything from "Jinkies!" to "Zoinks! to "Rikes!" is here, but many adult reviewers can't handle the modernising of the concept. The magic of Scooby-Doo is timeless, and here, it's brought to the big-screen in a way that no-one could have imagined would be so popular. One of this summer's best movies, and certainly not one to be missed.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Random Trivia Factoids: Frank Welker, the voice actor who has played the part of Fred in every single animated appearance the character has made from the very start of the series, can be heard in the movie, providing vocal effects for some of the monsters. Fred is the only Scooby-Doo character to have been voiced by the same actor since the beginning of the series, and will still be voiced by Welker in the upcoming new animated series.
Thoughts on some other summer movies! Remember - THERE ARE SPOILERS!
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Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, That Dude From "Jackass," Lara Flynn Boyle's breasts, and some guys who are better in the cartoon series.
I was left very underwhelmed by "Men in Black II." While certainly funnier than the first film, it's entire plot is simply a rehash of the first film's - find precious object before villain does or Earth will be destroyed. Similarly, the end of the film is simply trying to copy the first film's "surprise" ending - with the first film, it showed our galaxy within a marble, like the galaxy the characters had been searching for in the film. But in this sequel, our world is shown to be contained within a single locker - imitating a locker-full of small aliens seen once or twice in the film. But here, it was just simply too much of a minor plot point for it to work, and it's just a stupid copy of the first flick anyway.
Also, in the interm between movies, we've had the really good animated MiB series. Perhaps I'm just bugged because this movie firmly thrusts it out of continuity with the first feature, seeing as how the cartoon, on the whole, is just plain BETTER than both films put together. The characters of Frank the Pug and Zed, for example, are definitely better in animtaed form - Frank's much-more gravelly voice works better for him there, while Zed could easily have been played in live action by Charles Napier, the actor who provides his voice in the cartoon - Napier has a history of playing hardass military types in live action, and would have been a great Zed.
Eh. An average movie. Good to pass a few hours with, then to just forget about.
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Starring: Steve Irwin and some other people no-one cares about.
When a crocodile swallows the information core of a crash-landed intelligence satellite, it's up to Steve Irwin to save the unfortunate creature from the unwelcome attentions of two groups of rival spies, plus a rather unpleasant farmer.
I nearly fell out of my seat when I first saw the advert for the Crocodile Hunter movie. What a great idea! And it didn't just work in theory, either, it proved to be an entertaining, and even informative movie in the execution, as well. Irwin IS the movie, and his natural enthusiasm is enough to keep the audience interested for the movie's duration. There's no mucking about with CGI here, people - these angry crocodiles, venomous spiders and huge snakes are all REAL, and Irwin's probably the only guy on the face of the planet you could get to make a movie with them. All of the scenes featuring Irwin and his wife, Terri, are actually filmed as though they were an episode of his TV series, while the flashier-looking scenes with the spies in pursuit of them look more like a standard film.
Overall, a fun romp that'll give you a few giggles and entertain you for an hour or two, which you might even take a little something away from with you. Have a go at this whopper! Crikey!